Following an intervention by Deputy Education Minister II Mah Hang Soon, a secondary school in Batu Pahat, Johor has reversed its policy that imposed racial and gender restrictions on certain co-curricular activities.
SMK Dato’ Bentara Luar had issued a notice to Form 1 students, requesting them to each pick three co-curricular activities.
However, it restricted activities by race and gender.
Only Malay boys were allowed to pick football and sepak takraw while netball was restricted to “Malay girls only”. Basketball and ping pong were restricted to “Chinese boys and girls only”.
The school’s principal Abdul Razak Hamid reportedly defended the segregation, saying the move was driven by an apparent lack of space.
Mah told Malaysiakini today that he personally contacted the Johor education department to change the policy and remove all restrictions.
The MCA senator also called the policy a “mistake” because it contradicted Malaysia’s education philosophy.
“It was a mistake on the part of the principal [...]
“It is through sports activities that we can encourage integration, students to play together (and) to promote unity, camaraderie and the spirit of togetherness,” he said.
“I asked the school to change this policy. It shouldn't happen.
“It is against our (national education) blueprint,” Mah added.
One of the five aspirations of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 is to foster unity among students. One key method was by enhancing the Student Integration for Unity Plan.
Mah showed Malaysiakini an updated version of SMK Dato’ Bentara Luar’s list of co-curricular activities - which no longer imposed racial or gender restrictions on any sport.
Aside from sports activities, the school had previously imposed racial restrictions on certain charity, language, faith-based and subject-based clubs as well.
The Interact and Pendidikan Moral clubs were restricted to “Chinese and Indians only”.
The Pendidikan Islam club was limited to Malay students only while the Buddhist society was confined to Chinese students only. The Chinese language society was also restricted to Chinese students.
In the updated list, these restrictions were also removed.
Ministers criticise school
Like Mah, Education Minister Radzi Jidin also said segregating students by race in sports was wrong and against the ministry's values.
"I was shocked and saddened when I was informed about a school's move to issue a guide for students to select sports activities based on their race.
"When I saw the guide, I thought 'why do we need to do this? Let our children play together regardless of who they are!'" he said in a Facebook post this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican also remarked that segregationist policies should not exist.
"Sports should be colour-blind, able to transcend cultural boundaries and become an agent of unity.
"This move is inappropriate and backward. There is no such policy or approach in the (ministry's) Sports Policy. We want the democratisation of sports to begin in school," he tweeted in response to SMK Dato' Bentara Luar's previous policy.